Jain Fasting

Fasting is a tool for doing Tapa and to attach to your inner-being. It is a part of Jain festivals. It is three types based on the level of austerity; Uttam, Madhyam and Jaghanya; first being the most stringent.

1.    Uttam: Renounce all worldly things including food & water on the day of fasting and eat only once on the eve & next day of fasting.
2.    Madhyam: Food & water is not taken on the day of fast.
3.    Jaghanya: Eat only once on the day.

Fasting is one of the main tools for practicing external austerity. It helps the demands of the body under check and assists in the focus on the upliftment of the soul. Depending on the capacity of an individual, there are several types of fasting:
 •    Complete fasting: Giving up food and water completely for a period
 •    Partial fasting: Eating less than you need to avoid hunger
 •    Vruti Sankshepa: Limiting the number of items of food eaten
 •    Rasa Parityaga: Giving up favourite foods

During fasting a person immerses himself in religious activities like worshiping, serving the saints & be in their proximity, reading scriptures, Tapa, and donate to the right candidates. However, before starting the fast Jains take a small vow known as Pachkaan. A person taking the vow is bound to it and breaking it is considered to be a bad practice. Most Jains fast at special times, like during festivals and on holy days (eighth & fourteenth days of the moon cycle). Paryushana is the most prominent festival, lasting eight days for Shwetambar Jains and ten days for Digambar Jains, during the monsoon. The monsoon is considered the best time of fasting due to lenient weather. However, a Jain may fast at any time.
A unique ritual in this religion involves a holy fasting until death; it is called Sallekhana. Through this one achieves a death with dignity and dispassion as well as no more negative karma. When a person is aware of approaching death, and feels that he has completed all duties, he willingly ceases to eat or drink gradually. This form of dying is also called Santhara or Samaadhi. It can be as long as 12 years with gradual reduction in food intake.

Types of Fasting:

Varshitap: This is a difficult form of fasting and demands a high level of skill and discipline. Lord Rishabh did not eat or drink water for 400 days. It is possible for people to try a variation of Varshitap by eating every alternate days, in general. They can eat only twice in every alternate days, but in between during some special calendar events, they may have to fast longer periods.

Masskhaman: A person practising this form of fasting will not eat any thing for thirty days. During this period, they live by drinking previously boiled water. Normally on 30th day of fasting their successful completion is celebrated.

Aorie: In this practice, for 9 days food taken without any one of important additive that provide taste such as Ghee (clarified butter), Spices, Salt, etc.

Aathai: A person practising this form of fasting will not eat anything for eight days. During this period, they live only by drinking previously boiled water (8 hours ago at the maximum). They drink water after going to temple or after prayer that is done after 11'o clock and before sunset. Normally on 8th day of fasting, the success is celebrated by the community by organising a procession to the temple. On the 9th day, the person will stop fasting. The relatives and friends will come and help the person to break the fast.